SMBA Dev Diary #1

The Brief
The challenge for Super Monkey Ball Adventure was an interesting one; 'We want
to move Aiai and his friends away from just the puzzle stages and in to more of
an adventure.' This was an intriguing proposition, how to take a well-known and
popular franchise and take it in a different direction. A large undertaking
given the short amount of development time proposed!

Two things were definite from the start as we began to investigate what this new
project would entail. We wanted to ensure that you could swap between the
different ball modes during the adventure and that the environment was fun to
play in. If we had a standard two-legged character this is fairly a straight
forward proposition but when that character is in a ball the dynamic of the
environment changes. For example, in order to travel the different levels we
have to design each level with a ball in mind that cannot jump, double jump,
swing, etc. from the environment. We also have to ensure that the environment is
kept realistic to the main inhabitants of that world without too many
ball-friendly mechanics such as ramps and lifts.

Another challenge we had been given was the look of the game. Our previous
project was Crash: Twinsanity where the graphical look was very much in keeping
with previous Crash games. With Super Monkey Ball Adventure we we're asked to
create an environment that was bright and colourful – the reference for this was
the Honda advert with the flying engines and the cute little bunnies!

The Prototype
Keeping in mind the above considerations we set about developing a six-week
prototype to give an idea of what the game and the environment would feel like.
Jungle Island was the first world that we would develop as we had a fairly good
idea of what was required. It also turned out fortunate that one of senior
artists was involved with the Honda advert!

We set about designing a small task within a basic environment that allowed the
player to roll around and collide off of the environment to perform jumps. As
the prototype developed we began to look into what the other worlds would look
like and what the influences for those would be. In the past, trying to get
across the idea and flavour of any particular area of a game was done through
concept artwork. We had a number of ideas on how to achieve the required feel to
the worlds and ended up using a style sheet like those from the house makeover
programmes! That actually ended up working really well. We picked the focal
points within each world and gave examples of how this would look and what
inspired us for those areas. The result ended up with each sheet having concept
game artwork accompanied with real world photos. The result was that SEGA knew
exactly the kind of environment that they would get in each area. In a couple of
cases they came back with comments and requests of slightly different influences
and these were then reworked with these influences in mind.

It was important to SEGA that rather than just provide a basic story we also
include some depth. To this end each of the worlds has a slight touch of a moral
story, not enough to ram down the player's throat but hopefully enough for them
to think that it's a nice little touch.

At the end of six weeks we had a proof of concept showing how the game would
progress and the style of gameplay. With the style sheets for each world we had
a clear idea of each location and what it would look like. We had a design that
still needed further detail but was enough for us to begin production on the
game.

%d bloggers like this: